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The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"Removing the oil is a necessity"
 real 56k

Friday, 13 October, 2000, 14:43 GMT 15:43 UK
Leaking battleship to be drained
Royal Oak marker
A marker points to where the ship is lying
The Royal Navy has unveiled its plans to pump oil from a leaking battleship in the Orkney Islands.

The multi-million pound operation to penetrate the hull of the Royal Oak and stop the pollution from the vessel will start next year.

A team of divers will be brought in to remove the bunker fuel from the ship, which is believed to still contain 1800 tonnes of oil.

And the move has been welcomed by Orkney Islands Council, which claimed that the environment was being threatened by the oil leaking from the vessel.

The Royal Oak
The ship sank with the loss of 800 lives
In the summer, the authority threatened to take legal action against the Ministry of Defence if it did not act soon.

The 25-year-old battleship went down in Scapa Flow with the loss of 833 lives after it was torpedoed by a German U Boat in 1939.

The council has used booms, fixed to a salmon cage, in an attempt to trap and soak up the oil.

The Royal Navy has made several attempts to contain the flow over the last three years, including attaching steel patches to the hold, and fixing a canopy to catch the oil.

Complex plans

However, all efforts have failed and the council claims oil is still leaking at a rate of one and a half tonnes a week.

The navy unveiled details of its complex underwater plans to remove the oil on Friday morning.

It will insert a probe into the hull and attach a hose to pump out the oil.

In January, divers will concentrate on the area where the oil is leaking most.

Brian Taylor
Brian Taylor: "Delighted" at the move
Then in the summer they will take off as much of the remaining oil as possible.

Rear-Admiral Brian Perowne said: "We are actually going to remove the oil, so that has got to be the permanent solution."

Councillor Brian Taylor of Orkney Islands Council said the authority was "delighted" that something was being done.

"We would have liked it to have been sooner, but we know the complications that are involved in taking the oil out of the Royal Oak," he said.

The battleship, which is nearly 600ft long with a maximum width of 100ft, was built at Devonport, Plymouth, between 1914 and 1916.

She was armed with eight 15 inch guns and required a crew of 1,100.

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See also:

10 Feb 00 | UK Politics
Defence cash shortfall fear
10 Nov 99 | UK
Navy 'facing warship gap'
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